Durango city councilors on Tuesday said they plan to spend the next six months figuring out how to stabilize the general fund after voters rejected a property and sales tax increase that would have generated tens of millions of dollars over the next 25 years.
One of the ideas councilors had is to place another ballot measure in front of voters. But before that happens, councilors agreed holding more listening sessions with the public to gather input about what residents might be willing to approve would be worthwhile.
Voters last week rejected Ballot Question 2A by a 20 percent margin. The measure would have raised up to $7.5 million per year – or up to $187.5 million over 25 years – with a 5.4 mill levy increase and a 0.55 percent sales tax increase.
Before asking for the tax increase, the city put together a list of 45 projects and issues it has been working to address, such as implementing a new sign code, identifying a location for a new fire station and building a new police station. While the council would have set priorities regardless of whether the tax increase passed, the city is now doing so with limited funds.
With the failure of Ballot Question 2A, the city must decide what items on its laundry list of things to do are practical in the near term. No. 1 on that list is stabilizing the general fund, which is expected to have more expenditures than revenue in the next couple of years.
At Tuesday’s study session, councilors agreed that figuring out a way to stabilize the general fund must remain a top priority in the months ahead. Other priorities identified include protecting watersheds and upgrading existing wastewater infrastructure, which got unanimous approval; an initiative to install more infrastructure to encourage development; and a strategic plan to address the issue of homelessness in the city.
Mayor Sweetie Marbury and Councilor Dick White will be finishing their final terms in April, meaning the current makeup of City Council has only nine study sessions remaining before new councilors are elected.
“We’re in the legacy period, approaching the next election,” said City Manager Ron LeBlanc. “There are members of this governing body terming out who would like to see some priorities done before they finish up.”
City councilors went through the entire list of 45 projects and ranked each one based on effort required to address it and the impact of doing so. Qualifying each of the 45 projects gave councilors a framework that can be used to determine which projects and issues will be addressed. It also gives city staff an idea of what is feasible.
The projects were classified as either high impact, low effort; low effort, low impact; high impact, high effort; or low impact, high effort. Many of the priorities that were determined Tuesday were “high impact, high effort.”
City staff did not appropriate any money for streets, storm-water and facility improvements in the 2019 proposed budget. If 2A would have passed, the city would have had more latitude to cross off items on the list of 45 projects, including fixing failing streets and building a new police station.
But with the measure failing, the city is forced to take on smaller projects, which are more economically efficient, or fewer projects.
Eight roads in Durango were in “very poor” condition when the city performed its pavement condition study earlier this year. Seventy-two roads were in “poor condition.” Many of those streets won’t see repairs in the coming year.